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There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange
mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe
for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly
discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's
expense but his own. However, nothing dispirits, and nothing
seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all events, all
creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things visible and
invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion
gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small
difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of
life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly,
good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by
the unseen and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of wayward
mood I am speaking of, comes over a man only in some


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time of extreme tribulation; it comes in the very midst of his
earnestness, so that what just before might have seemed to him
a thing most momentous, now seems but a part of the general
joke. There is nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this
free and easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy; and with it
I now regarded this whole voyage of the Pequod, and the great
While Whale its object.

“Queequeg,” said I, when they had dragged me, the last man,
to the deck, and I was still shaking myself in my jacket to fling
off the water; “Queequeg, my fine friend, does this sort of
thing often happen?” Without much emotion, though soaked
through just like me, he gave me to understand that such things
did often happen.

“Mr. Stubb,” said I, turning to that worthy, who, buttoned up
in his oil-jacket, was now calmly smoking his pipe in the rain;
“Mr. Stubb, I think I have heard you say that of all whalemen
you ever met, our chief mate, Mr. Starbuck, is by far the most
careful and prudent. I suppose then, that going plump on a
flying whale with your sail set in a foggy squall is the height of
a whaleman's discretion?”

“Certain. I've lowered for whales from a leaking ship in a
gale off Cape Horn.”

“Mr. Flask,” said I, turning to little King-Post, who was
standing close by; “you are experienced in these things, and I
am not. Will you tell me whether it is an unalterable law in
this fishery, Mr. Flask, for an oarsman to break his own back
pulling himself back-foremost into death's jaws?”

“Can't you twist that smaller?” said Flask. “Yes, that's the
law. I should like to see a boat's crew backing water up to a
whale face foremost. Ha, ha! the whale would give them squint
for squint, mind that!”

Here then, from three impartial witnesses, I had a deliberate
statement of the entire case. Considering, therefore, that squalls
and capsizings in the water and consequent bivouacks on the


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deep, were matters of common occurrence in this kind of life;
considering that at the superlatively critical instant of going on
to the whale I must resign my life into the hands of him who
steered the boat—oftentimes a fellow who at that very moment
is in his impetuousness upon the point of scuttling the craft with
his own frantic stampings; considering that the particular disaster
to our own particular boat was chiefly to be imputed to Starbuck's
driving on to his whale almost in the teeth of a squall,
and considering that Starbuck, notwithstandling, was famous for
his great heedfulness in the fishery; considering that I belonged
to this uncommonly prudent Starbuck's boat; and finally considering
in what a devil's chase I was implicated, touching the
White Whale: taking all things together, I say, I thought I
might as well go below and make a rough draft of my will.
“Queequeg,” said I, “come along, you shall be my lawyer,
executor, and legatee.”

It may seem strange that of all men sailors should be tinkering
at their last wills and testaments, but there are no people in
the world more fond of the diversion. This was the fourth
time in my nautical life that I had done the same thing. After
the ceremony was concluded upon the present occasion, I felt
all the easier; a stone was rolled away from my heart. Besides,
all the days I should now live would be as good as the
days that Lazarus lived after his resurrection; a supplementary
clean gain of so many months or weeks as the case might be.
I survived myself; my death and burial were locked up in my
chest. I looked round me tranquilly and contentedly, like a
quiet ghost with a clean conscience sitting inside the bars of a
snug family vault.

Now then, thought I, unconsciously rolling up the sleeves of
my frock, here goes for a cool, collected dive at death and destruction,
and the devil fetch the hindmost.